Friday, July 29, 2011

Mushroom and Onion Cheeseburger

After a week of long days—playing laser tag, going to retirement parties—I have decided to take it easy tonight : ) I have a huge to-do list for tomorrow as well, including a much needed gym session, so I want to be able to be lazy tonight! 

I also wanted to take some time tonight to think of new ideas/recipes for my food processor, as I got it in the mail today!!! Pat gave me my gift for my birthday when we were in Maine, but it needed to be shipped down here so I could use it—he was such a sweetheart and paid for the shipping. I am one lucky girl! 

I unpacked the food processor, I put it on the counter with all of my favorite gadgets.  After taking a look at my countertop, all of my fave (and most highly used) gadgets are from Pat—he’s definitely a keeper!
My Kitchenaid mixer, Cuisinart 16 cup(!) food processor,  and Wustorf knives...
the flowered bag in the back has my pasta maker...again, from Pat!

The temperatures have risen here in Virginia, with the high in my car of 108 F, so it is clearly obvious that summer is here to stay. 
Anyone that knows me will say that I am a fall and winter gal--I love months with cooler temps, crisp leaves, and cold snow.  Nothing beats it for me.  However, living in the south (yes, I consider VA the “south”), I get to appreciate summer a little longer in the year than when I was living in Massachusetts. 

Bring on the BBQ.

For tonight’s post, I wanted to give some tips on how I make one of my favorite summertime dinners: mushroom and onion cheeseburgers.  YUM.  So classic, but it never gets old.  

A few weeks ago, I went to Whole Foods and bought 8 preseasoned hamburger patties for $8! (Whole Paycheck, I don’t think so!!)  I got the chipotle burgers, with organic meat, some chipotle powder, cumin, and cayenne.  Sooo good.  
Mushroom and Onion Cheeseburger
1/2 cup sliced mushrooms 
1/4 onion, sliced
1 slice mozzarella cheese
1 hamburger patty (1/4 lb. of meat approx.)
mustard and ketchup
With about a teaspoon of olive oil and salt and pepper, saute onions and mushrooms on medium heat for about 6 minutes, or until the onions and mushrooms are cooked (but not mushy!).
Add burger patty to grill pan.  And here's the key...don't touch it for about 5 minutes!  Then flip it, and leave it again for another few minutes, or until fully cooked and it looks like this:
Love those grill marks!
Now here are where things get interesting!
Pile the mushrooms and onions on the patty, until they begin to fall off, and then save the rest for later : )
And from this angle---- 
Look how piled on they are!
Add the cheese...

Once the cheese is on, cover it for a minute or so--the cheese will melt and it will hold all the toppings inside! This is the best for when you use a hamburger bun because nothing is worse than losing half of your sandwich, where it can end on your plate, or even worse...your shirt (not that it has ever happened to me before...)!
And after:
Note the "artistic" ketchup and mustard action in the top left : )
And for the first bite:
Look at how the toppings aren't going anywhere! The cheese is a godsend. Seriously.
Maybe I could get used to summer after all : )

Thursday, July 28, 2011

Smoothie Time!

Is it bad that I was a little sore today from laser tag? Not the i.cant.move.anymore. sore but the kind where you can definitely feel your muscles while walking.  Yeah, I need to start working out more.

Today continued the retirement festivities, so I was able to graze all day, eating potato salad, chips, and dessert.  With all of that sugar in mah belly, I decided a simple, refreshing dinner was needed.

The smoothie.
For some reason, I was always intimidated by smoothies.  Never made them, rarely eat them (unless they are from Robeks).

So, after eating empty calories all day, I decided to add some nutrition to my life.

Looking at a few recipes, I quickly learned that frozen fruit was best, as you don't have to add ice to the smoothies.

Using that knowledge, and starting with this recipe, I made

Even better than these or these.

Chocolate Strawberry and Pineapple Smoothie
1/4 cup of vanilla almond milk
1 frozen banana
1 cup strawberries
1/2 cup frozen pineapple
1 tablespoon chocolate peanut butter

Blend all the ingredients together.  (that's it!!!)

So creamy, fruity, and with a hint of chocolate, this smoothie was to die for.  It was surprisingly filling and it tasted just like something I would have gotten from Robeks, but sooo much cheaper.  And I get to pick the flavor combinations! I recommend freezing the fruit (the only fruit I didn't freeze were the strawberries) because the smoothie didn't get too thick.  It was perfect, and I am so happy I have a little left over, so I can have this on my drive in to work tomorrow.  : )

Now that I am officially a smoothie convert, I cannot wait to see what other concoctions I can make!


I just found my new favorite pasttime. But you have to promise not to laugh.
Please tell me that all of you have seen this show?!

A woman at my work is retiring, so to send her off appropriately, the only logical thing was to take her laser tagging (?)!!!  This is the first time I have ever played, and let me tell you, after the first game I got so intense that I started screaming “You can leave now!!!!!” to every opponent I hit…..let’s just say I enjoyed the game : ) It also was a wicked good workout (yes, I am originally from Massachusetts), as things started to get a little smelly by the second game.

Once I got home, I still had the adrenaline rush from the games, so all I could think of was having a big chunk of meat for dinner (I guess aggression brings out the caveman in me…).  Since the only thing in the fridge that was defrosted was chicken, I went with that. 

BBQ Chicken Lettuce Wraps
By: Me!
(this is for 1 serving, but can be easily doubled, or if you are feeling really hungry...tripled!)

1 Chicken Breast
1/2 cup of your favorite BBQ sauce (I used Sweet Baby Ray's; use as much to cover the chicken entirely)
1/2 Hass avocado
Squeeze of lime juice
3-4 Romaine leaves, with the stalk taken out (1 leaf per sandwich)
Sprinkle of feta
Salt and Pepper

Pound out chicken to ensure even thickness.  I used a soup can and pounded the heck out of that chicken (I think I still had some "energy" left over from the laser tag!). 
Cover in BBQ sauce and marinate for 30 minutes to overnight.  I just thought of the idea when I got home, so 30 minutes it was!
 Grill chicken until cooked, about 8-10 minutes on each side.  Let rest.

Don't worry, I didn't eat both of them--one's for lunch tomorrow!
 Cut up half of avocado and roughly chop.  Sprinkle with lime juice to prevent oxidation and add salt and pepper (I used garlic pepper...yum!).

I put this stuff on.everything.

Sidenote: Check out this cool Salt grinder that my roomie
 got me for my birthday!!!
Take romaine leaves and cut out the thick stalk in the middle so you will be able to roll up the lettuce with the filling.  Lay on table and add avocados and feta.
Cut up chicken on an angle and arrange.

 Roll up and serve!
It is a little messy, but it is so crunchy and good!!!!
These are so good, folks and so easy to make! You can use basically whatever you have in the fridge for protein and veggies.  Traditionally, lettuce wraps are used with Bibb lettuce, but (once again) since I thought of the idea when I came home, I used what I had in my fridge--adaption is the key to cooking! One shouldn't spend $343 million dollars (ok, a little exaggeration) for one ingredient that you will use once, when you can substitute efficiently.  Check this website for other substitutions, or just use your noggin : )

Now on to dessert....

Kristin made cheesecake stuffed strawberries (omg!) the other day, but since I don't like cheesecake, I decided to do my own thing...with this:
I walked past this in the supermarket and couldn't leave it there with a clean conscience.  Dark.Chocolate.Peanut.Butter?!?!?!!? 

So I cored the strawberries, and spooned that magical concoction into the strawberries. 
Delish.  It would be even better with a topping of fresh whipped cream, but alas, my fridge was lacking that as well.  Maybe I should go shopping...

The pb didn't detract from the sweetness of the strawberries--in fact, it reminded me of chocolate covered strawberries, with a little "oomf".  One would think that peanut butter would clash with the strawberries, but trust me.  The peanut butter flavor isn't really prominent in this spread--the chocolate is.  And isn't that how life should be?


Tuesday, July 26, 2011

It's the Most Wonderful Time of the Year

Summer + Birthdays (If only there was snow, and a jolly man dressed up in red...wait, that's another one...)

July is apparently the month of birthdays.  In honor of my boss’ birthday tomorrow, I am making, by her request, a chocolate cake.

Now, let me tell you.  When I asked her what she would like me to make, stressing that she could have anythinggg that she desired (Reese’s, Oreo, or coconut cake to name a few), she told me chocolate cake.  With buttercream frosting.

Me: With peanut butter filling?
Her: No

Me: With chocolate chips?
Her: No

Me: Chocolate/Peppermint/Strawberry Buttercream?
Her: Just.plain.buttercream.

Now I must confess, when she gave me this wish, I was a little bummed.  I always want to challenge myself in the kitchen…but plain old chocolate cake?

Boy, was I wrong!

After tasting a little bit of the end result, I was blown away by the taste of the rich, fluffy chocolate cake, paired with the decadent, yet classic buttercream.  I was transported back to when I was a child and I would get cake with buttercream for my birthdays and how everyone would fight over the flowers on top.

Even though there weren’t any flowers on this cake, it definitely was memorable.

I used this recipe for the chocolate cake. 

Below are Annie’s instructions:

2 cups all-purpose flour

½ cup unsweetened cocoa powder

½ tsp. baking powder

½ tsp. baking soda

½ tsp. salt

2 sticks unsalted butter, at room temperature

1 ½ cups sugar

2 large eggs

2 large egg yolks

1 tsp. vanilla extract

1 cup buttermilk (I used 1 cup of whole milk and 1 tablespoon of vinegar—got to love those substitutions!)

Preheat the oven to 350 F.  Grease and flour 2 9-inch round pans.

Mix the first five ingredients in a bowl.  Whisk together.
In a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, beat the butter on medium speed until soft and creamy.  
Add the sugar and beat for about 2 minutes, until thoroughly blended into the butter.  Add the eggs and yolks one at a time, beating for one minute after each addition and scraping down the sides of the bowl as needed.  Beat in the vanilla.  
Reduce the mixer speed to low and add the dry ingredients alternately with the buttermilk; add the dry ingredients in 3 additions and the buttermilk in 2 (beginning and ending with the dry ingredients).  Mix each addition only until it is blended into the batter.  Scrape down the bowl and add the melted chocolate, if using, folding it in with a spatula.  Divide the batter between the prepared cake pans.
Bake for 26-30 minutes, or until a toothpick comes out clean.  Cool to room temperature.
I used this recipe for the frosting (so easy!!!!).

Beat 2 sticks of butter for about 2 minutes, until completely smooth.  Gradually add 2 ½ cups of powdered sugar until combined.  Add 1 tablespoon vanilla extract.  Beat for 2 minutes until smooth.  Add a little water if too thick.

(Sorry that there are no pictures--I was too impatient to frost the cake, that I made the frosting in about 5 minutes!)

I also cut each cake in half to add additional layers—yum!  Hope my boss enjoys this as much as I did making it!

Happy Birthday : )

Monday, July 25, 2011

I'm baaackkk (with a recipe)!!!!!

Back to reality!

After two glorious weeks in Maine, one weekend in Nantucket, and countless lobsters, ice cream, and beverages, I am back in Virginia.

It was full of great times with family,
Padre and I
ahhhh young love ;)
And ……

A diesel blender from the novio (boyfriend)!!
My birthday was a few weeks ago, and my gifts clearly reflected my interests.

To name a few: A heavy duty food processor!!!
                         And a TORCH from my seestor <---- pic to come!

Both of these items were what I have been dreaming of for years, so be prepared for lots of posts on things being chopped up and then set on fire : )

To start, one of my favorite salsa recipes!

Rachel's Salsa
4-5 roma tomatoes
1 small onion
1-2 jalapenos (1 for medium heat, 2 for a LOT of heat!)
4 garlic cloves
juice of 1 lime
handful of cilantro, roughly chopped

Roughly chop the first four items and layer in the food processor until desired consistency.  Add in cilantro and pulse until blended.  Toss with lime juice and enjoy!

Add the jalapenos you forgot to put in! (but it's okay, no one could tell the difference!) 

Secret ingredient: Pinch of salt!
Courtesy of Mama Gourmand

She loves it!
This recipe is soooo easy and adaptable to every and any occasion!  I had about 10 hungry family members to bring this too, and it was just about demolished : )

In other news...

This vacation left little time for exercise, so off to spinning I go!
Mama Gourmand and I on one of our few runs during vaca!  
Check out my Camelbak! The rents got me it for my birthday, how awesome is that?!?!?!

Have a great night!